The Space Systems Design Lab is located in the Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) building on the Georgia Tech campus as part of the School of Aerospace Engineering. The SSDL resides on four floors of the ESM building which includes a front office, lab space, offices and desks for faculty, staff, and graduate students. Each of the labs is used for a specific purpose to fit together as part of a complete space mission design, fabrication, test, and operations facility. These in-house facilities are further complemented by the Aerospace Engineering Maker Space and Machine Shop, and Georgia Tech manufacturing, assembly, and test facilities that are shared across campus where students can access a full range of computer controlled (laser/waterjet cutters, 3D printers/scanners), powered (lathe, welders, etc.) and other electronic equipment (oscilloscopes, etc.) for prototyping and design experiments.
Prof. Lightsey’s lab focuses on spacecraft technology hardware design, prototyping, and testing comprising over 1000 ft^2 of workspace. The lab includes eight computer workstations equipped for CAD, software development, modeling and simulation. Four electronic workbenches are provided for electronics development, staging, and testing, including a fully functional CubeSat flat satellite. A 12 ft^2 class 10,000 clean bench is used for in-lab flight hardware subsystem assembly and testing. The lab includes a multi-GNSS signal simulator for satellite radionavigation testing and a thermal vacuum chamber with an 8 ft^3 internal test chamber rated to 10^-6 torr.
Dr. Gunter's lab is primarily used for CubeSat design, development, and testing. The lab includes an electronics workstation, software development workstations, and a clean room for building and assembling sensitive space hardware. For spacecraft testing, the lab includes a Helmholtz cage for simulating Earth's magnetic field and an air bearing with two degrees of freedom for simulating the torque free rotation experienced in space.
Georgia Tech’s spacecraft fabrication and test facilities include: 1) 400 ft^2 class 100,000 clean room, and several 12 ft^2 class 10,000 clean benches; 2) satellite assembly/inspection station; 3) surface mount component assembly station; 4) solder reflow oven; 5) thermal vacuum chamber (-10 to +70 deg C); 6) anechoic RF chamber; and 7) 20 ft^2 vibration shaker table. Immediately adjacent, but exterior to the cleanroom envelope, is an electrical test station with electrical pass-throughs into the cleanroom assembly area and test chambers.
Georgia Tech offers post launch operations through its high gain S-band and UHF/VHF ground stations. The network has been used to command and control the RANGE, LightSail-1, Bevo-2, Prox-1, Lightsail-2 and ARMADILLO spacecraft. The SSDL tracking station provides spacecraft command and data downlink capability. With two independent ground station locations on campus and at the Georgia Tech satellite campus at Cobb County Research Facility, rotor-driven antenna systems provide horizon-to-horizon sky coverage. A 3-m diameter dish is used for high gain S-band receive and transmit capability, and a Yagi antenna provides UHF/VHF uplink and downlink capability. Tracking station support equipment includes a Kenwood TS-2000X transceiver, an Icom IC-R9500 receiver, and a Software Defined Radio. NOVA and Ham Radio Deluxe software are used for satellite tracking and antenna steering.
Rigorous, scholarly Space Situational Awareness research is uniquely hampered by a chronic and severe lack of direct observational data that a) is specific to the research problem at hand and b) will pass public release reviews at funding agencies. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that, by and large, the vast majority of space object data collection is performed by the United States SSN. To address this problem, Georgia Tech has constructed the Space Object Research Telescope (GT-SORT), a Raven-class space surveillance telescope (0.5m, f/8) capable of directly observing on-orbit space objects and validating algorithm performance. GT-SORT is one of the telescopes in the Georgia Tech Observatory, and is used by the public in regularly scheduled outreach events.
Space flight operations are conducted from the Space Systems Design Lab MOC, a 540 ft^2 facility located in the Engineering Science and Mechanics building. Desktop computer consoles for each spacecraft subsystem and the mission director are configured for mission monitoring and data analysis. Secure ground data servers are located on campus and may be remotely accessed with Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) Cyber Security gateways.